The mythology and folklore of a particular destination can end up telling us a lot about the values and beliefs of the local people. While some folk tales are positive stories, many usually have an element of horror, originally told to instill fear into children and teach them the ways of the world.
Though modern people tend to be more skeptical than our ancestors, many still believe the myths and legends that have been passed down for generations. Travel to any given country, and you’ll find locals who really do believe in their culture’s versions of vampires, bogeymen, and other entities. Check out these 10 folk tales from around the world that locals actually believe.
Many cultures around the world have their own versions of the walking undead, better known as vampires. In China, the equivalent is Jiangshi, a creature that is sometimes referred to as a hopping vampire due to the way that it hops around with its arms outstretched.
A folk tale haunting China since the Qing Dynasty, the story goes that the Jiangshi has the power to take a human life with just one touch. According to Little Things, to protect themselves from the reanimated corpses, Some Chinese put a slab of wood at the bottom of the door so the creatures can’t come into their homes.
Another common folk tale that we see in many cultures throughout the world is that of a bogeyman figure. Such stories of an evil man or creature are intended to scare children into behaving. In Paraguay, there’s the tale of Jasy Jatere.
In some versions recorded by Invaluable, he’s a short man. In others, he’s a child. But his goal is to search the streets during the siestas for children who are up playing instead of taking their nap. Some believe that he kidnaps the children and gauges their eyes out so they can’t see their way back home.
Water spirits are also found in mythology and folklore from around the globe, from the countries of Europe to the Indigenous legends of Australia. Finland’s resident water spirit is said to be called Näkki. From a young age, children in Finland are taught that if they lean too close to bodies of water such as lakes and ponds, the water spirit will emerge and drag them in.
There are several depictions of Näkki, though nobody knows what the creature really looks like. You might just have to visit a few ponds in Finland to find out!
The Inuit people tell of a creature called Mahaha, who is essentially a demon preying on humans. He attacks by tickling his victims to death, so when a person was found dead with a hint of a smile on their face, Mahaha was immediately thought to be responsible.
The demon is described as having cold blue skin and long, clawed fingers with stringy hair. Just in case that isn’t creepy enough, he is also said to wear a permanent grin. Though he has the power to kill his victims by tickling them, Wanderlust reveals that he’s not the most intelligent creature.
Sometimes evil creatures from folk tales appear hideous enough to evoke nightmares. Other times they appear impossibly beautiful, and you don’t know that you’re dealing with an evil entity until they reveal their true colors and it’s too late. Such is the way of Skogsrå.
The Swedish tale claims that the creature takes the form of a beautiful woman and is often seen near the edge of a forest. She lures people into the trees and then casts a feeling of disorientation over them. After falling victim to the woman, you spend the rest of your life lost in the woods.
One of the most famous figures in Slavic lore, Baba Yaga is usually depicted in the same way. The witch resembles an elderly woman and lives in a hut nestled deep in the forest that stands on giant chicken feet. Rather than using a broom to fly around, she uses a mortar and pestle.
Sometimes, Baba Yaga likes to eat small children. But she’s not always evil. There are some stories of people seeking her out to ask her questions, though there’s the chance that she won’t help them. According to Little Things, she is said to despise the “Russian smell” of people who come to see her.
Australia’s answer to a cross between the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot, the Bunyip is said to dwell in the billabongs and creeks of the outback. Indigenous Australians warn that anybody who is foolish enough to wander too close to these bodies of water risk being gobbled up by the creature.
The actual appearance of the Bunyip has been debated. Some reported sightings claim that the creature resembles a giant seal with fangs, tusks, and the face of a dog. Others say it looks like a horse with flippers.
The mythical creature known as Tokoloshe is said to be short, but the Zulu tribes of South Africa are still afraid of it. Though the beast doesn’t have height on its side, it can jump to great heights. The stories tell that Tokoloshe likes to jump up onto people’s chests at night while they’re sleeping and steal their breath away.
There’s one method of protection against the creature, and that’s to put your bed on high bricks. The Zulu people believe that if their beds are raised too high, the malevolent being can’t hop onto their chests and do its work.
Perhaps the most famous figure in Irish folklore, the Banshee is said to take the form of a woman. In some tales, she’s young and gorgeous with long white hair. In others, she’s an old woman with rotting teeth. Either way, coming across a Banshee isn’t a good sign.
This creature is said to foreshadow death. Even though she doesn’t cause death herself, she announces that death is nearby releasing a haunting wail. So it’s definitely not good luck to stumble upon her while roaming the Irish countryside.
The legend of Black Annis is said to come from Leicestershire in England, though there are variations of the tale all over the British Isles. Sometimes called Black Annis and sometimes called Black Agnes, the hag from the story is said to dwell in a lonely cave in the countryside. She is depicted as having iron claws and blue skin.
Of course, Black Annis’s favorite meal is small children. Her howl is loud enough to be heard for miles, as is the sound of her grinding her teeth. People in Leicestershire often lived in cottages with small windows, for fear that the witch would reach inside and snatch them.